ENTERTAINMENT group Sky shrugged off the threat from rival BT, which has taken over the Championship League football rights, as it reported its best first quarter UK customer growth for four years.
Popular television series such as True Detective, as well as box set offerings including Sons Of Anarchy, Entourage and True Blood, helped viewing figures jump 70 per cent year-on-year for Sky Atlantic in the UK and Ireland.
The group said it added 77,000 customers in the three months to the end of September across the UK and Ireland, up 50 per cent on a year earlier.
Profits in the UK and Ireland leapt by a fifth to £358m, helped in part by cost cutting.
As part of its plans for future expansion, Sky is building a world-class technology facility in Leeds that it claims will create a hub in the city that will prevent the cream of technology moving South to look for work.
Sky’s new facility will create up to 400 skilled jobs, bringing the total number of Sky employees in Leeds to over 1,000.
The firm, which has more than 20 million customers group-wide following the acquisition of businesses in Italy and Germany, hailed a “strong start to the year” as it posted a better-than-expected 10 per cent leap in overall group earnings to £375m.
Sky said it managed to overcome a tough trading period thanks to its investment in world class TV content and innovation.
Its rate of churn, which measures the number of customers quitting the group, fell to 9.8 per cent in the UK, down from 10.9 per cent a year earlier.
This marked the lowest first quarter churn level for over 10 years.
The group said broadband was its star performer, with a 77 per cent surge in new customers, up 133,000 on a year earlier.
The Leeds hub will form a key part of Sky’s broadband plans and the firm said said recruitment is progressing well.
The new team will work at the cutting edge of digital technology, creating and developing Sky’s next generation of websites and apps.
“Construction has begun to transform the dock into our new home and the first phase is set to open at the beginning of December,” said a spokesman.
“All three buildings will be open by the end of March 2016,” he added.
Based at Allied London’s Leeds Dock, the firm said that “Sky@Leeds Dock“ will establish a dynamic and creative environment that will transform the way Sky’s technology teams operate.
Matt Grest, head of technology at Sky@Leeds Dock, said: “The hub will mean that the cream of technology will no longer have to go to London or the west coast of America.”
Sky said the new hub will meet customer demand for new ways to access content - on mobiles and tablets, and on the move.
Despite the loss of the Championship League rights, Sky Sports viewing rose three per cent over the quarter.
Group performance was driven by the UK, while earnings were held flat in Germany and Austria and they fell by 24 per cent in Italy.
Sky struck a deal last November to buy Sky Italia and a majority interest in Sky Deutschland, which saw it change its name from BSkyB to Sky.
Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said: “As with much of the content, Sky’s numbers make impressive viewing.
“The group’s relentless pursuit of new customers, allied to a focus on cost control, has led to a six per cent growth in revenue and 10 per cent increase in operating profit.”